A cabinet minister has admitted there is “no consensus” on how to solve the adult social care funding crisis, even though the prime minister announced he had a “clear plan” for doing so when he took office in October.
Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, told a Commons committee on Monday that it was “one of the biggest issues of our time” but then admitted that there was “no consensus at the moment on the way forwards”.
Jenrick (pictured) told the committee that he was unable to say when the government would bring forward its proposals, adding: “We will be bringing forward proposals when we can.”
But Labour’s Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi reminded him that Boris Johnson had announced outside 10 Downing Street on 24 July that his government would “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”.
Dhesi said: “The prime minister said you have a clear plan; you have said there is no consensus.
“If he has a clear plan then clearly the clear plan should be laid out in front of all of us.”
He also pointed out that the government had failed to publish its long-awaited adult social care green paper.
Jenrick told him: “I can’t give you a timetable for that other than to say that, from my perspective, it is right that we take time and get this right, and that’s what we intend to do.”
He said his focus was on “ensuring the current system is sustainable”.
Jenrick repeatedly referred to the funding for 2020-21 that the government announced in last month’s spending round, with an extra £1 billion for adult and children’s social care, and the possibility of another £500 million for adult social care to be raised by councils through council tax.
He said that a “multi-year settlement” for social care would be decided next autumn.
But Dhesi told him: “From your responses what I take is that there is no clear plan and there are no proposals in terms of the green paper on social care.”
Earlier this month, Johnson’s pledge in the Queen’s speech to bring forward proposals to solve the adult social care crisis was dismissed as “waffle” and “a smokescreen” by leading disabled campaigners, with one saying it was “designed to confuse and give the appearance of action when the reality is the opposite”.
And yesterday (Wednesday), Labour’s shadow minister for social care, Barbara Keeley, said the number of people receiving publicly-funded social care had fallen by 15,000 in the past year, while 95 people a day were dying while waiting for care, and cuts of £7.7 billion had been made to social care budgets since 2010.
Labour’s Helen Hayes told Jenrick on Monday that there were currently around one million people with recognised social care needs who were not receiving any care at all.
She said: “Arguably there is nothing sustainable about the current system.
“I just want to be clear about your views on the acceptability of the current situation in any way, shape or form.
“We have a system that is creaking at the seams, that is failing to deliver for people with a quantifiable gap, and the government has been systematically, over now at least 18 months, if not longer, failing to get to grips with this crisis.”
Jenrick said: “I know that the current system is very challenging. That is why we want to see significant reform.”
He said the settlement from the Treasury for 2020-21 was “a good one and it is almost certainly the most generous one that we have seen for 10 years”.
He added: “[It] has enabled councils to be on a sustainable footing until such time as we can bring forward wider proposals and a longer-term settlement.”
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